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Green energy could be key to SA economic recovery: expert

Staff Reporter

South Africa should consider expanding the green energy sector as one of the ways of kickstart the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic because it has the potential to create more jobs, an economic has expert said.

Hugo Pienaar, from the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbosch University, told a webinar hosted by Central University of Technology on Thursday that it is important for the country to consider the sector as a viable option because it has potential for growth.

“There is a big focus on green energy but we haven’t seen the delivery of that,” Pienaar said in response to a question posed by The Free Stater on which sectors the country should put more emphasis on to kickstart a more viable recovery plan post the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar sought to provide a landscape of the economy for the next three years and give an insight into the use of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies after the pandemic.

Besides being clean and reliable, green energy is widely viewed as key to economic development because it has vast opportunities for job creation in manufacturing, installation and other downstream activities.

“There are plans but they keep being delayed. I think green energy helps us in a number of ways . . . we need to make that transition,” Pienaar said.

“There are a lot of private sector participants that are willing and able to provide the financing for such investments.

“The government doesn’t have any money to be putting on the table now.”

Pienaar said because of the pandemic, South Africa is likely to face high unemployment amongst those without skills and there is a need to look at sectors that can absorb such workers.

He said sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and mining could absorb a significant number of the unemployed.

“We need to focus on the future, but we also need to go back to basics and make it easier . . . by taking away some of the burdens on business, whether you are in manufacturing or agriculture,” Pienaar said.

“It’s important to take away some of the uncertainties to stimulate those sectors,” he added, emphasising the country could be faced with a very difficult time given that the official unemployment rate stood at 29.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“Those numbers are clearly going to increase. I really do worry about those people and where they will find employment.”

Pienaar said while other options like the Public Works Programme could be considered for temporary employment, it pays a very low income and is only ideal for survival.

He suggested the government should therefore focus more on creating a better environment for private businesses to thrive.

“So, the role of government should be to try and make it as easy as possible for the private sector to grow by taking away the red tape . . . especially for small businesses, to hire people,” Pienaar said.

The other speaker, Mitesh Chotu, an area solution architect at Microsoft, spoke on the potential of 4IR and said it was important to look at sectors with potential and “disrupt or you will be disrupted”.

“You need to look at sectors that have the ability to stimulate a significant amount of job creation . . . and this could be the construction sector, for example,” Chotu said.

“Infrastructure-led recovery seems to be across the board in the Middle-East where they are starting to reinvent themselves by kicking off massive projects.”

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